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COVID-19 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

COVID-10 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

Our understanding of COVID-19 shifts from day to day as doctors and researchers gain a better understanding of this novel virus. Keeping a facility up and running poses enough challenges on an average day as it is, so it is understandable that these circumstances have thrown facility managers for a loop. Here are some resources for Long Island facility managers, property managers, and business owners to help you keep your facilities running safely and smoothly during the pandemic:

OSHA's “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a 32-page guide that explains how an outbreak of COVID-19 could impact business and offers information on symptoms and transmission. It also outlines steps employers can take to minimize the danger to their workers, depending on their level of exposure risk (low, medium, or high), with special instructions for workers traveling abroad.

OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topic

The COVID-19 page on the United States Department of Labor website explains how the virus spreads, and how OSHA standards apply when it comes to protecting employees from the virus. It provides tips for employers and employees alike, with specific guidance for employees of certain industries. This is a must-read for managers of healthcare or deathcare facilities, laboratories, or sanitation facilities.

The CDC's "Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)"

This COVID-19 guide by the Centers for Disease Control provides guidance on cleaning and disinfection and social distancing, designed for non-healthcare settings. It explains how to reduce the risk of transmission between employees, maintain healthy business operations, and keep up a healthy work environment.

The CDC's Long-Term Care and Other Residential Facilities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist

Long-term care and residential facilities often house the people most vulnerable to illnesses like COVID-19. This pandemic planning checklist highlights important areas for pandemic preparedness and response planning, geared specifically to the challenges these facilities face.

The WHO's "Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19"

The World Health Organization has also released a COVID-19 guide for businesses. It outlines ways to prevent the spread of the virus, managing risks in group settings like meetings, managing risks during travel, and preparing your facility for a local outbreak.

The IFMA's Pandemic Preparedness Manual

The International Facility Management Association's Pandemic Preparedness Manual covers instructions for maintaining business continuity, planning checklists, response checklists, and instructions for controlling and mitigating the spread of a viral outbreak. Though the information is geared toward avian influenza, much of it is applicable to other viruses.

New York State Department of Health

The NYS Department of Health COVID-19 website explains which businesses are experiencing mandatory closures, and links to guidance for businesses considered essential services. This is intended to help employers determine if they meet the criteria for an essential business, and follow the necessary steps to obtain the designation.

COVID-19 Resources within Nassau County

Nassau County has a dedicated coronavirus hotline at (516) 227-9570. The Nassau County COVID-19 website provides helpful infographics with instructions for applying for aid, important links and numbers for Nassau-area individuals and businesses, and simple instructions for limiting the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 Resources within Suffolk County

Suffolk County also has a COVID-19 resources portal, with the most up-to-date news on cases within the county, information from the CDC, and links to guidance for individuals who may have come in contact with a carrier.

The ISSA's "Coronavirus: Prevention and Control for the Cleaning Industry"

The International Sanitary Supply Association offers webinars by the Global BioRisk Advisory Council, tip sheets, and information geared toward those employers that work within the cleaning industry.

The EPA’s List of Anti-COVID-19 Disinfectants

Not all cleaners are effective against viruses, COVID-19 included. When purchasing a disinfectant to combat a specific disease-causing agent, it's important to cross-reference it with the products on the EPA's recognized anti-COVID disinfectants list. This list gives the registration numbers, product names, manufacturers, and formulation types of all of the currently recognized anti-COVID disinfectants.

Dealing With Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a Facility Manager Whitepaper

This Dealing With Coronavirus Whitepaper is written for facility managers, to offer guidance on how to prevent, contain, and mitigate outbreaks in the workplace. It covers reducing the number of workers, increasing the distance between workers, disinfection strategies, and keeping everyone in the loop.

This novel coronavirus is presenting challenges that are testing the limits of everyone's disaster preparedness plans. If you are a facility manager in New York state, these resources can help you keep your employees, clients, and guests as safe and healthy as possible.

Work At Home Checklist For Employers

This Work At Home Checklist is a handy reference for employers working to maintain business continuity by having employees telework.

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How Facility Managers Should Be Responding to Coronavirus

How Facility Managers Should Be Responding to Coronavirus

The emergence of any new disease is scary, especially when there's a lot of misinformation circulating about it. Right now, officials in the U.S. and overseas are talking about closing down schools and other public places in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and it has facility managers rightfully concerned. Here's what you should be doing to help keep yourself, your employees, and your visitors safe:

Enforce hand washing protocols.

The news is full of stories about stores running out of antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, and even masks, but the best defense against diseases like influenza and COVID-19 is regular old hand washing. Coronavirus is believed to be transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions. Train employees in proper handwashing techniques, post new signage as a reminder and make sure bathrooms are properly stocked with soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Encourage sick employees to stay home.

It's a sad fact that many people don't feel that they are able to stay home to rest when they are ill. Avoid scheduling any shifts that can't absorb a loss or two if someone needs some sick time, and make sure employees know that they can and should leave work or stay home if they begin experiencing upper respiratory symptoms. If sick employees insist on coming in anyway, send them home. The minor addition to productivity they would bring is not worth jeopardizing the rest of your employees, tenants, or visitors. This is especially true of workers in hospitals, nursing homes, or other areas with a high concentration of potentially vulnerable people.

Review sick leave policies.

One of the biggest reasons that sick people don't stay home is that they fear being penalized for doing so. Go over your company's sick leave and paid time off policies, and make sure that employees aren't in a position that disincentivizes reporting symptoms or responsibly taking sick leave. Put policies in place that cover furloughs or workplace closure.

Promote good coughing or sneezing hygiene.

If you are managing a store or office building, your visitors and tenants may not have the things they need to prevent infection, so provide them -- within reasonable expectations. Set up stations with hand sanitizer, disposable tissues, and a wastebasket, and keep them stocked and cleaned. If you are managing a hospital, keep stations stocked with masks, and post signage encouraging anyone with respiratory symptoms to use them. Masks don't protect the wearer very well, but they are excellent at protecting others from the wearer.

Go over cleaning procedures.

Contaminated surfaces can transmit illness when people touch them and then touch their eyes, mouths, or noses. Make sure your policies outline the procedure for sanitizing each area of the facility, what products need to be used, and protocol for avoiding cross-contamination. Make sure that any disinfectant products used have EPA-approved claims against bacteria and viruses of concern. There haven't been any tests specifically on COVID-19 yet, but the EPA's Emerging Virus Protocol offers information on products that are effective on similar pathogens.

Keep some extra inventory on hand.

It's not a good idea to hoard supplies, but it's reasonable to expect some supply chain disruption. Public health experts recommend that households have some extra non-perishable staples on hand in case of store closures or problems restocking, and this can be extrapolated to facilities, too. Take inventory on your most-used supplies, and stock 10-15% extra. It should be enough to get you through a minor disruption, but not enough to cause problems with purchasing or storage.

Keep tenants and employees informed.

Epidemics are frightening, and being kept in the dark only intensifies those fears. Keep tenants and employees up-to-date on the latest information and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as all of the steps you are taking to protect their health. Go over employee and tenant contact information, and make sure it's up-to-date. If there isn't a good communication system already in place, set one up.

Train supervisors or other key employees in infection control and reporting.

As new cases of COVID-19 emerge, it's imperative to report exposures to local public health departments. Educate key employees in the potential impact of the virus, make sure they have easy access to relevant company policies, and give them the contact information for the public health authorities in your area.

Don't panic.

The media tends to sensationalize stories and play on the public's fears. Make sure you're getting your information from a reputable, expert source, and don't succumb to the temptation to panic. It isn't necessary to stockpile bottled water and food, and many of the most-frequently stockpiled items (like triclosan hand sanitizer and surgical masks) aren't effective against viruses anyway. Remember: Right now, the flu is a bigger threat than COVID-19. If the flu isn't triggering a panic, that shouldn't either.

When most companies plan for disasters, they think of tornadoes, fires, explosions, and floods. Illnesses can easily become emergencies, too, and it's vital that facility managers have policies in place to help mitigate the damage they can cause. By following these tips, you can keep your employees, tenants, and visitors safe, and business running smoothly.

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7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are pretty much the bane of any facility manager. There are few things worse than not having any water, repairing a burst pipe, and cleaning up the water damage afterward. The good news is, this kind of disaster is usually preventable, as long as you take a few steps to avoid it.

How do pipes freeze?

Pipes freeze when stationary water inside them is subjected to very cold temperatures. Since water expands when frozen, this creates a lot of pressure inside of the pipe, which may then burst. When temperatures drop to at least 20°F and remain so for six or more hours, there's a danger of pipes freezing. If the pipes are poorly insulated, freezing may occur in as little as 3-4 hours. This can happen in areas of a building that may not be easily seen or accessed frequently, like crawl spaces, closets, storage areas, lofts, or roof spaces.

What are the dangers of frozen pipes?

The biggest danger of a frozen pipe is the lack of access to water. If a pipe freezes in an apartment building, for example, tenants won't be able to bathe, wash dishes, or use the restroom. Even if a frozen pipe just causes a hairline crack instead of bursting, this can result in a leak that encourages the growth of black mold. Leaking water can also cause water damage to floors, ceilings, and any furniture or other fixtures. If water seeps into a light fixture or electrical socket, it may even cause a fire.

How can you prevent frozen pipes?

There are a number of ways to keep pipes from freezing:

  1. Keep water running. Moving water won't stay in contact with cold temperatures long enough to freeze. Even just allowing taps to trickle is enough.
  2. Thoroughly insulate pipes that run through unheated spaces or exterior walls. These are the most in danger of freezing.
  3. If there are any pipes that won't be in use during winter, drain them. Pipes only burst when water expands as it freezes. They'll be safe, as long as they're dry.
  4. Keep interior spaces at least 40°F.
  5. If a building has anti-freeze sprinkler systems, ensure that there is a proper concentration of antifreeze in the lines.
  6. Where possible, use UL-listed electric heat tracing products to keep pipes warm. These use an electrical current to provide heat to pipes when temperatures drop too low.
  7. Open the doors to any enclosed spaces with pipes running through them. This allows warm interior air to mix with the cold air in the space, raising the temperature.

What should you do if a pipe freezes?

If you notice that a pipe has frozen, there are a couple of strategies to try.

First, turn off the water to the frozen area to keep it from leaking more than necessary. Next, use a hot towel, heating mat, or space heater to warm the pipe, or wrap it with thermostatically-controlled heat tape. After that, use a fan to direct warm air into the room to raise the ambient temperature above the freezing point. Lastly, if you don't have any leaks, open faucets to a trickle to keep water moving when you turn it back on. If you do, call a plumber to have them repaired before restoring the water flow. Following these steps should help unfreeze pipes and keep them from freezing again.

What should you do if a pipe bursts?

If a pipe bursts, you'll need to act quickly to minimize the damage to everything in its vicinity.

First, shut the water off. You'll have to deal with a flood as it is, so cutting off the water supply is the most important step. After that, contact a plumber to replace the burst section of the pipe. While you wait for the pipe to be replaced, remove as much water as possible by whatever means necessary -- siphons, pumps, buckets, mops, or a wet-dry shop vacuum.

Afterward, use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the area as much as possible. The walls and flooring will likely have absorbed a lot of water -- even hard materials, like tile, can allow it to seep in through tiny cracks and spaces. This increased moisture can encourage the growth of mold if it isn't dried quickly and completely.

Dealing with frozen or burst pipes can be a headache, but there are ways to keep them from seriously damaging a building or inconveniencing its occupants. Make sure pipes are thoroughly insulated or kept warm, act quickly to thaw frozen pipes, and have a strategy in place for quickly dealing with bursts and leaks. You'll be able to keep the building safe and your clients happy all winter long.

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Hurricane Preparation Planning For Facility Managers

Hurrican Preparation Planning For Facility Managers

We all know that hurricanes are violent storms with the potential to cause severe damage and destruction to anything within their range. The good thing is, with today’s technology meteorologists are able to forecast hurricanes well in advance of their approach. Thankfully facility management can make it a point to take advantage of these insights. Advance preparation can leave facility leadership with a solid framework by which to weather the storm and protect their facilities, and the businesses and employees therein. We encourage facility management teams to refer to the following guidelines.

Assess What’s Most Important

There are three key elements that keep a business up and running: its employees, assets, and location. Taking swift action early enough to protect these elements from the threat of a hurricane will help you to maintain order and rebound quickly after the storm has passed.

Protecting Your Employees. When facing a potential crisis, an organization’s workforce looks to management for leadership and guidance to help keep them safe and informed. There are challenges to this that exist in today’s highly mobile workforce that didn’t exist even just ten years ago. Several factors to take into consideration are:

  • Where is each staff member located (in real-time)?
  • Which employees travel and what is their current schedule?
  • If you have remote workers, do you know where they are in any given moment?
  • Do you have a mass notification system in place to quickly and easily notify your people?
  • Is each employee being tracked by HR, travel, and/or building badge systems so they can be reached immediately?


Inventory Your Assets. 
The potential for flooding, high winds, gas shortages, and power shortages pose a threat to all kinds of business assets, including network, data, equipment, technology, supplies, products, and overall facilities. Identifying the following assets now can help to prevent stress later on:

  • Where are your assets located?
  • What kind of physical protection is available for each asset?
  • Which assets are critical to running the business?
  • Are these assets owned or insured?
  • What assets are leased, and what is your responsibility if they’re damaged?


Note: To help businesses “prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and recover rapidly from operational disruptions,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends referring to their Continuity Tool Kit.

Fortify Your Locations. Geographic location can certainly influence a property’s vulnerability to disaster by a hurricane. That said, while severe flooding is more likely to occur in coastal regions, facilities located inland are still susceptible to great danger. Hurricanes may weaken, but even slow-moving systems can hover over populated areas and cause catastrophic flooding and water damage. Whether your facility is comprised of a single unit or multiple buildings, you’ll need to consider how to reinforce each individual location. Consider the following questions:

  • What is the address of every location under your company umbrella including storage facilities and transportation lots?
  • What is the evacuation plan for each facility? For example entrances/exits; stairs, elevators and escalators; parking lots; and access to the closest hurricane evacuation route.
  • Which people/teams work at each location?
  • What are the biggest risks for each facility and how fortified are they to withstand potential damage?
  • What types of materials are in place necessary to getting the facility up and running again?


Draw Up an Emergency Plan

Having an emergency plan in place is vital to minimizing the panic and confusion that hurricanes can cause. Your plan should maintain some flexibility in case of unforeseen circumstances, but it should certainly incorporate core infrastructure elements that are unlikely to change as the company grows. Here’s how you can plan ahead to protect these elements:

Back-Up Your Data. To safeguard against on-premise damage, like flooding or fires which can destroy on-site servers, you’ll want to ensure that all company data is backed up offsite. Backing up data regularly should ideally become a habit so that, in the case of a hurricane or other weather event, your business won’t suffer loss should your server go down.

Set Up Cloud Systems. Cloud-based systems can expedite the disaster-recovery process. Converting key business systems and mobile device data to the cloud, including payroll, CRM, and HR systems, will allow these systems to be accessed remotely in the event your company needs to work from a different location.

Create Checklists. A checklist of tasks that need to be performed before, during, and after a hurricane can help to ensure that nothing is missed. The list should be both stored on a cloud application for easy access, and also physically posted for easy reference in the case of a power outage. Also, be sure to communicate this list to key stakeholders if you’ll be out of the office or unavailable at the time a hurricane is expected to touch down.

Review Contracts. Don’t wait for the aftermath of a major storm to review your contractual obligations with vendors, insurance providers, and landlords. Take the time to review contracts for specific mentions of weather-related events, damages, and complete loss. If a contract doesn’t reference these potential situations, contact contract owners directly to find out what their weather-related clauses and policies are.

Map Evacuation Routes. Safety is the number one priority in the event of any threat, and hurricanes certainly qualify here. An explicit plan to help employees promptly locate the safest way out of their facility will minimize chaos. You’ll need to determine which stairwells and doors should be used, identify parking lot exits, and what surrounding streets should be taken. Posting physical maps on each floor will help to familiarize your staff with approved evacuation routes. Holding drills on regular days when no weather-threats are posed will also help to acquaint employees with proper evacuation procedures.

Implement a Two-Way Communication System. It can’t be emphasized enough how important communication is. In the event of a hurricane, good communication can potentially save lives. You’ll want to ensure that every staff member is safe and able to communicate with leadership and with each other. You should not rely on the internet alone, as it can be rendered inaccessible during a power outage. Implementing emergency communication software can enable a company’s leadership to deliver real-time information to employees across multiple channels and devices simultaneously. Such a system can also be used to check in with employees for status updates, and to provide evacuation details. You’ll want to optimize this system by regularly updating your company directory with accurate contact information for each employee. Many systems include pre-set templates to help administrators pre-emptively prepare so that during a weather event they will be able to relay information swiftly with only a few clicks. Messages created in advance and stored on these templates eliminate the need to create a message from scratch, which can save precious minutes in the face of a dangerous storm. Ideal templates to use should include email, voicemail scripts, SMS texts, and push notifications.

Create Emergency Response Teams

It takes a proverbial village to protect your people, assets, and locations. Once your plan is in place, it’s time to delegate responsibilities and practice its execution. Here are three steps necessary to provide everyone with a thorough understanding of what to do in the event of a hurricane:

Define Clear Roles and Responsibilities. Your plan will have moving parts involving multiple people, so be sure to designate roles to employees you trust can handle the challenge. Communicate specific responsibilities with each individual stakeholder and ensure that they have the resources and technology they’ll need. Be clear with everyone about who is on each team, and who they can turn to for specific information.

Train Teams. Gather the team to review protocols and answer any questions they may have. Be sure to modify the plan as the company evolves should new locations be acquired, expansions be built, or facilities be changed.

Role Play. Hold mock drills to practice your plan. Though role play may feel silly, rest assured that when actually faced with the dangers of a hurricane, team members will be more likely to remember a drill than an office memo. You can opt to give the team notice, or to conduct impromptu drills to mimic a real-life emergency.

As you can see, careful planning in conjunction with these guidelines can make all the difference. Taking proactive steps now, before a hurricane hits, can help to ensure everyone’s safety in the midst of one. It will also give weather-damaged facilities accessibility to a quicker recovery process and can help protect businesses by minimizing their total losses.

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Preventing Facilities False Alarms: What FMs Need To Know

Preventing Facility False Alarms

Alarm systems are designed to protect commercial properties from all sorts of disasters. From fires to burglaries, the system in your building will alert you to any threat that it detects 24 hours a day.

However, sometimes these systems can sound the alarm when no threat really exists in the building. As a facilities manager, you can minimize facility false alarms by knowing how to install your system properly and what measures to take to ensure it functions correctly around-the-clock.

Why Avoid False Alarms?

You might wonder why you should make every attempt to minimize or eliminate facility false alarms in your building. After all, how much harm can a false alarm really do to commercial property? What is the big deal if your alarm system goes off by accident?

In fact, a facility false alarm can have major ramifications on a business notwithstanding the wracking up of major penalties and fines. Most police and fire departments understand that businesses will have the occasional false alarm. However, they do not appreciate having to respond to continued weekly or sometimes daily false alarms because of faulty systems.

If your building has repeated false alarms, it could be heavily fined by the police and fire departments. As the facilities manager, you will be responsible for explaining these fines to the business owner and why you failed to take immediate action to keep the false alarms to a bare minimum.

Further, repeated false alarms could lead to the shuttering of the building until the alarm system is fixed. The building's insurance company or the state fire inspector could decide that it is too costly and dangerous to keep the building open while it is being guarded by an alarm system that does not work properly.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, repeated false alarms can give the building’s occupants a false sense of security. They may disregard the alarms when they go off instead of evacuating or taking other proactive measures. In the worst case scenario, false alarms could lead to injuries or a loss of life.

Rather than face these scenarios, you can take measures now to keep false alarms to an absolute minimum. These steps are common sense and simple and can save you the headaches that come with dealing with repeated facility false alarms.

Avoiding False Alarms

The first step you can take as a facilities manager to minimize false alarms is to retain the services of a factory trained and licensed alarm company. The company should have a staff of trained, bonded, and licensed technicians on hand who can come to your building to install, maintain, and repair the alarms on a regular basis. 

You also should ensure that the alarms are the newest models and installed in appropriate places throughout your building. For example, you do not want smoke or fire alarms installed too closely to heaters or cooking appliances. These fixtures could trigger the alarms when there really is no threat in the building. 

Likewise, you want carbon monoxide detectors to be installed close to gas fixtures like furnaces and hot water heaters. These alarms should not be installed close to windows where they could catch breezes and not be able to detect the presence of carbon monoxide in the building’s air. 

Another measure you can take as a facilities manager is to train the building’s staff on how to use the alarm system correctly. You can start by showing them how to deactivate the system in the morning when they first open the building. You also should show them how to activate the alarms when they leave for the evening. During the daytime, you should keep the burglary detection system deactivated with the exception of the panic alarms. 

Finally, you should use care when hanging decorations in the building. Decorations can catch the breeze by doors and windows, tripping motion detectors and sounding off the alarms. You should hang decorations in areas that are not monitored by motion sensors if you want to avoid false alarms.

These simple steps can save you from dealing with the expense, embarrassment, and possible tragedy that can come with false alarms. You can keep the building’s occupants safe and save the business owners money. You also ensure that real emergencies like burglaries, carbon monoxide leaks, and fires will be responded to quickly if or when they occur.

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How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that an overwhelming 40 percent of small businesses will never recover and reopen after experiencing a major disaster. Facility managers are responsible for preparing for the worst and safeguarding the business from potential natural disasters. Facility managers play a pivotal role in formulating, communicating and updating preparedness plans.

Recently, a wave of natural disasters has adversely impacted businesses through the nation, and facility managers have been working together to formulate better strategies for emergency preparation. 


Emergency Preparations

One of the most immediate concerns for facility managers in natural disaster preparations should be equipping the office and staff with the resources and knowledge necessary for immediate survival. This means that evacuation routes, basic safety measures and company procedures need to be outlined explicitly and posted or distributed to all employees.

Managers should also compile a list of contact information for all staff members that is stored online and accessible in the event of a crisis. Facility managers should strongly consider installing emergency lights throughout the building. These lights need to illuminate exits and should be operational for at least 90 minutes during an emergency situation.

Facility managers are responsible for installing and maintaining smoke and fire alarms within the facility. Emergency kits should be assembled that include first aid items, emergency flashlights, chemical masks and any other essential items. Legal codes can provide a foundation for facility managers to begin creating a preparedness plan, but real-world practice runs are essential to help you identify weaknesses in your plans. 



Utilize Smartphone Apps

According to researchers, most modern-day individuals will pull out their phones when they don’t know what to do. Panic can cause people to completely forget procedures and plans even when they’ve been through practice runs. Facility managers should consider utilizing smart-phone technology to their advantage by creating an emergency app with instructions, evacuation routes and simple tips.

Apps can also be used for communication and real-time updates during crisis situations. Social media has been a major factor during recent disasters because people can communicate through their smartphones, request assistance and keep everyone updated on the situation in various locations. 



Data Protection

Although your company’s staff and property should be main priorities during disasters, it’s important for facility managers to protect company data as well. Protecting your data should involve making your physical facilities resistant to power outages, decentralizing data operations and having a solution in the event that the data center fails.

Physical preparations should include things like surge protectors and reinforced buildings. In the event that your centralized data center is inaccessible, it’s important to have a backup of important information stored online. While physical hard-drives can be damaged, data in the cloud is secure. Cloud services are a great solution that facility managers should consider. MIT experts argue that without a cloud service, “your original data could be lost forever”. 



Build a Telecommunication Strategy

Having a telecommunications strategy before an accident happens can be extremely helpful in the aftermath of a disaster because your business can continue operating remotely. Even if your office isn’t directly impacted by the natural disaster, it’s likely that some of your employees will be unable to make it to the office right away.

Throughout Hurricane Harvey, the International Facility Management Association had all of its employees work from home. Ideally, facility managers should consider how their employees could work remotely, formulate a plan and test the telecommunication strategy before it needs to be implemented. 

Strengthening your company’s emergency preparations, data protection policies, emergency apps and telecommunication strategies are all crucial in protecting your company’s employees, property and data. In the past few decades, emergency situations have been increasing.

Facility managers need to be aware of the increase in extreme weather, international terrorism and domestic violence to properly prepare for these unpredictable events. Facility managers act as coordinators during emergencies, and they are responsible for leading their team to safety. Is your business prepared to handle an extreme event?

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Facility Managers and Their Role in an On-Site Emergency

Facilities Management Emergency Response

While many facilities managers prefer to maintain a behind-the-scenes role in the buildings they oversee, there are times when your role becomes critically important. In an emergency, FMs must take charge. You know the space better than anyone, and are able to summon resources quickly and get people where they need to go.

The best emergency response comes from thoughtful preparation. In an emergency, the facility manager defines everyone’s role so they know what to do when the moment arises. It is his or her responsibility to define mission-critical functions and assess where vulnerabilities lie. The FM coordinates all of the parts of the preparedness plan that is in place for your facility; communicating that plan to all owners, managers and occupants; and running practice scenarios to identify breakpoints in the plan. The FM takes into account new circumstances, the changing needs of building occupants, and feedback from stakeholders to tweak the plan as needed.

How Facility Managers Can Best Prepare for an Emergency

The most important key to a successfully implemented building operations plan is preparation. All emergencies, from fires to natural disasters to terrorist attacks, can cripple a facility’s operations. It is vital that your facility management staff create a thorough emergency plan.

An emergency plan should cover four key issues:

It should identify the critical building systems that must be kept functional. There are state and federal regulations and standards that address the minimum basic requirements needed for communication, emergency power, water, fire protection, fuel storage, HVAC, and lighting systems. Covered under these requirements are the safety needs of the employees, residents and visitors of the facility. Keep in mind that these requirements do not necessarily cover the services many facilities will face after an emergency has occurred.

It should include a list of everyone who occupies the building on a regular basis. Maintaining a comprehensive list of anyone and everyone you can reasonably expect will be in your facility during an emergency. Include contact information, a cell phone number and a work email, so you are able to reach them if need be. Facility managers have an obligation to ensure the safety of everyone in their facilities.

It should have a list of all equipment and other property that needs to be secured safely. Items such as computer equipment, outdoor furniture, and lawn-maintenance tools must all be properly stored in an emergency. Dedicate this responsibility to one team member to avoid confusion and a breakdown in communication which can cost precious time in an emergency situation.

It should include a checklist for every action the facilities team needs to carry out during the emergency. As noted above, it is important that every member of your team knows exactly what their duties are in a crisis. Your emergency checklist should be prominently displayed in your facility’s staff room. It is also a good idea to have a few laminated copies of your emergency plan in various central spots in your building.

Improving Your Facility’s Emergency Preparedness

The best way to prepare for an emergency situation is to perform a mock disaster run-through every quarter. This can be anything from a natural disaster such as tornadoes or earthquakes, hurricanes, to a potentially life or death situation such as a terrorist threat or a potentially violent individual in the facility. Choose a scenario and act it out, having everyone involved role-play their own part. After the mock-crisis is over, evaluate your team.

  • How calm did your team remain in the face of this crisis?
  • How well did they gather the facts? Was any relevant data missed that would have aided you in your decision-making?
  • What decisions did you make and how effective where they?
  • What was your team’s reaction time?
  • Using a scale of one to five, how well did you rank in each of the above?
  • How well did your crisis plan work? What impact did it have on employee morale and/or the public’s image of you?

These trial runs will test your team’s ability to recover from unexpected events and highlight any flaws or weaknesses in your plan. It is also important to routinely check the maintenance and functionality of your property’s safety equipment such as sprinklers and alarms, and designing workspaces so that people can freely move to get to an exit.

Create a command center. Devote a space in your facility or off-site that is crisis-ready. Equip the room with supplies such as televisions, phones and computers. This is where your crisis team will gather to discuss developments, stay informed and devise your company’s response. Be sure everyone involved is aware of this space.

It is important that facilities managers communicate to occupants well ahead of time what they need to do in the event of an emergency. Make sure this information gets disseminated to everyone. Many building occupants report that they are not aware of the location of safety equipment or procedures. They believe that their workplaces are unprepared for power outages and natural disasters and they are unsure who to report to with a safety question or concern.

IFMA-Long Island Platinum sponsor Total Fire Protection has performed fire and life safety services for numerous corporate and government clients across the United States. Their professional technicians have decades of experience keeping facilities of all types and sizes up to code and ensuring that tenants are kept safe. They pride themselves in developing lifelong relationships with their clients and partners. Total Fire Protection offers, new and existing customers, comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for their fire and life safety services. In a dire situation, Total Fire Protection will dispatch our emergency response team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Your team’s reaction in an on-site emergency can have a drastic effect on the outcome of the situation. If handled properly, the occupants and staff of your facility will emerge from the disaster unscathed and with a deepened level confidence in your management ability.

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